The Megane Sedan is packed full of features that the others just don't have.
The car was launched today (Friday) at the Durban Motor Show, just a month after its reveal at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany, and we can tell you that, unlike its predecessor, it's good-looking, spacious, and thoroughly modern.
Aiming to take a big chunk out of Corolla and Jetta sales, the Megane Sedan comes in three trim levels and with three engines - an 83 kW 16-valve 1.6-litre petrol, a 98.5 kW 2-litre 16-valve petrol, and its acclaimed 88 kW 1.9-litre common rail turbo-diesel, the latter upgraded to thrust out no less than 300 Nm of torque at a lowly 2 000 r/min.
There are three gearbox options - 5-speed and 6-speed manual and 4-speed automatic.
One of the most important attributes of the new car is its long wheelbase - 2 686 mm - with an extra 61 mm over the Megane Hatch to make it the best in class.
This is translated directly into more rear room, with 230 mm of legroom in the back better than either of its competitors (we tried it at the show) and almost on a par with the highly spacious VW Passat.
The longer wheelbase also improves ride and handling, says Renault.
On top of that its 228 mm of rear overhang has been used to good effect to produce a humungous boot, which at 520 litres is better than the previous class-leader, the Jetta (455 litres), and at the same time more rear comfort derives from the 23 degree incline of the split and foldable rear backrest.
The Megane Sedan is available in three trim levels - Authentique, Expression and Privilege, the latter including leather and cloth trim, and a host of comfort and convenience features as standard.
However, even the bottom level Authentique models are superbly equipped with features (available on the 1.6 models).
Standard features include:
tinted glass all round,
intelligent windscreen wipers,
heated rear window,
electric front windows with "one-touch" for the driver,
height adjustable driver's seat and front safety belts,
five height-adjustable headrests,
trip computer with warning system,
remote controlled central locking via Renault Card, RAID (Renault Anti-Intruder Device),
manual air conditioning,
time delay lighting,
transponder engine immobiliser,
power steering with variable assistance,
ABS with EBD and emergency brake assistance and
4 x 15 Watt single CD Receiver with RDS and fingertip controls.
Other features include a smart rear wiper, front underfloor storage, an accessory power point, ISOFIX mounting points for the front passenger- and outer rear seats, double optic See Me Home headlamps.
There are 15-inch steel wheels with attractive full wheel trims are fitted, along with colour-coded bumpers and black door handles.
The next trim level is Expression (available on the 1.6 manual and auto), characterised by a charcoal grey instrument panel and metallic grey handbrake lever shaft, gearshift pattern and the outer rim of the instrument binnacle. Upholstery is Damier Beige/Charcoal Grey cloth.
Additional items of equipment over the Authentique level include 16-inch alloy wheels, colour coded heated electric exterior mirrors and door handles, electric windows front and rear with "one-touch" and "anti-pinch" functions, exterior temperature indicator, roller sun blinds for the rear window and the rear side windows, lumbar support adjustment for driver's seat, front- and rear centre armrests with storage.
There's also a 60:40 split rear seatback, front door storage with lid, rear shelf stowage, (standard from Authentique) glovebox linked to air conditioning, pollen filter, reading lights front and rear, integral front foglights, automatic headlamps, automatic front windscreen wipers and electro-chromic interior rearview mirror.
Xenon headlights, a panoramic glass sunroof with sunblind, automatic air conditioning, leather upholstery, and a six-disc CD shuttle are optional. ESP with understeer control (ASR) will be available at a later date.
The Privilege equipment level (available on the 2-litre and 1.9 dCi) adds 16-inch Reinstella alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning, a heat reflective windscreen, leather steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake cover, satin chrome door handles, polished aluminium sill plates and cruise control/speed limiter.
Upholstery is Zaire Beige Leather/Cloth combination, with full cloth trim optional.
As in the Hatchback, the Megane Sedan boasts new front (MacPherson struts) and rear suspension (torsion beam with coil springs) systems that combine precision with comfort, and highly effective isolation of noise and vibration.
The result is superior roadholding, braking and dynamics. ABS, Emergency Brake Assist with automatic triggering of the hazard warning lights, and a tyre pressure monitoring system are standard on all models.
In order to provide the optimum handling balance, the Sedan's suspension setting have been specifically tailored to suit, with revised damping- and spring rates suspension travel adjustment and calibration of the steering.
Renault's new Megane Sedan benefits from the Company's expertise in the area of passive safety.
The Hatchback achieved a five-star rating in the stringent Euro NCAP crash test, and the Sedan builds on this, with a structure further strengthened to take into account the additional mass added by the rear end, with the latest generation SRP system with double pre-tensioners and load limiters in the front seats, and a total of six airbags for maximum safety.
Megane Sedan 1.6 Authentique R163 000; 1.6 Expression R179 500; 1.6 Expression automatic R191 500; 2-litre Privilege R199 500; 1.9 cDi R209 500.
All the cars come with a 3 year/60 000 km maintenance plan and a 3 year/100 000 km warranty.